Herald on Sunday
Djokovic dethrones Nadal in epic showdown
Rafael Nadal’s reign as the king of the French Open is over after more than five years of invincible tennis at Roland Garros.
The Spaniard and Novak Djokovic fought out one of the most epic battles seen at Roland Garros before the world No 1 found another gear in a match that had everything.
Nadal’s 1834-day unbeaten stranglehold on the tournament was broken yesterday after Djokovic delivered an insane, faultless performance during a third set tiebreak and broke Nadal’s back with six consecutive service games to take the fourth set for a 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-2 win.
He will face Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final after the Greek star won a marathon 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3 match against Germany’s Alexander Zverev.
It was just Nadal’s third loss at the French Open, for a record of 105-3.
The scoreline does not do the battle justice after a bonkers third set some tennis greats described as one of the best sets seen.
Djokovic said after the match he would never forget it.
“Definitely the best match that I was ever part of in Roland Garros, and top three in my career,” he said. “One of these nights and matches that you’ll remember forever,” he said.
The result adds further intrigue into the three-way battle between Djokovic, Nadal and Roger Federer as they fight to end their careers with the most grand slam wins.
Federer and Nadal are tied on 20 with Djokovic potentially going to 19, if he beats Tsitsipas.
Djokovic came up big when it mattered in the third set, but both players were dropping jaws across the tennis world as they put on a show.
The incredible drama reached a frenzy in the third set when the Paris Covid-19 curfew was scheduled to kick fans out of the stadium complex.
However, as the clock ticked down to the deadline, it emerged that the tournament had been given special permission for the crowd of 5000 to remain inside the Phillipe Chatrier centre court.
The quality of the match, particularly the 85-minute third set, left tennis stars including grand slam winners Andy Roddick and Victoria Azarenka shaking their heads.
Tennis legend Andy Murray posted on Twitter: “You cannot play better clay court tennis than this..”
Nadal refused to blame the cool night air conditions.
“That’s more favourable for him, the conditions,” he said after the epic. “But it doesn’t matter. That’s tennis. The player who [gets] used to the conditions better is the player who [deserves] to win. So no doubt, he deserved to win.”